Tea plantations are associated with tea estates/gardens where tea plants (camellia sinensis) are commercially cultivated in large tracts of lands. Like any commercial plantation, the plants are induced with various commercially activities like chemical fertilizers & pesticides, pruning, bio-tech (cultivar), etc. To meet the ever increasing demand of tea, there is very few option other than go big through commercial route. However, there are different plantation systems which still exist, which are more ancient and rustic, but produce much higher grade/quality.
Yunnan Province in South West China is considered to be the origin of tea plantation. There are three types of plantation model adopted in Yunnan.
Taidi Cha Yuan
The literal translation is “Terrace Tea Plantation”. This is modern day tea plantation method of tea estate where plants are grown in thick density in a given space in large scale. They are grown from plant cuttings from the same bush (cultivars) so as to retain the same genetic homogeneity. This method is adopted mainly for mass production to meet the ever increasing tea demands. Mostly, this type of plantations rely on chemical input for management of soil fertility, pests and disease as they lack the structure and function of bio diverse forests for a balanced ecosystem and also because they lack the genetic diversity to withstand various external factors. However, there are organic plantation model which use organic (or accepted) manure or pesticides.
Shengtai Cha Yuan
These are eco-tea gardens, where tea plantation is done to get the benefits of both estate and ancient plantation model. They are planted in higher density for more production, at the same time cultivation is done from the seeds and each tea is space with trees in between to give shaded & diverse environment. Because of this, chemical pesticides and fertilizers are seldom required.
The literal translation is “Ancient tea groves”. In this system, tea grows in the natural forest or they are randomly planted tea tress in the forest hills by the aborigines centuries back. Unlike cultivars, they are grown from the seeds and hence genetically diverse. Because they grown in the pristine forest in diverse environment, they are not subjected to any chemicals, pesticides or fertilizers. They are old and deep rooted trees and hence they have more capability of absorbing more nutrients from the forest soil which is well endowed by nature. Apart from the high nutrient contents, they tend to have complex aroma and flavor which is acquired from the diverse forest environment.
Forest Pick teas are sourced from this type of plantation model. While our tea gardens don’t have organic certification, but they are as organic as nature can be. The tea trees are left to mother nature to nourish and nurture, hence there is no avenue for any type of chemicals to come in. Certification for mountain range without a single owner is difficult. We are in our initial phase of our venture, if there is a requirement for certification we can explore in the future.
Our Wild Teas are made from forest tea plants in the adjoining hills of Churachandpur District in Manipur of North East India. The tea plants are believed to be around for over centuries. It’s still a mystery as to how, when, who and where did these wild tea plants came from. Village folklore has different versions, however every version converged to somewhere around the British Times. Nobody is sure whether it was planted by the British, but conventional wisdom doesn’t warrant so. It is unlikely for Gold Digging merchants like East India Company to be interested in planting tea in such mountainous terrain with very limited transportation means. A terrain where commercialization would have been a mammoth task then (it still is today). Moreover, there is no written documents nor even bed time story about the origins of these tea plants. Part of it was because tea has never been a cash crop for the village folks, it was (and is still today) used merely for domestic household consumption.
The tea plants are of Camellia Sinensis Assamica variety, the broad leaves and buds variety. The tea forest has fascinating similarity with those of tea forest in Yunnan Province of China in many ways. Starting from the plant types, which are both assamica variety and the geographical & social structure similarity. Hence, the believe that it may have some connection at some point in history. While Assam is closer and it comes under the same country, however unlike the tea growing area of Assam which is much more plain and estate system, out tea forest hills are at an elevation ranging between 3000-5000 feet above sea level, higher rainfall, misty clouds all year round with tribesman community sparsely spread across the mountains in small villages.
The arial distance is not very far off from Yunnana Province as given in the google map. The nearest point is just about 415 Kms.
Biodata of the Tea Hills
North Latitude – 23/36/20.4 to 24/36/46.8
East Longitude – 92/58/12 to 93/52/58.8
Between 3000 Ft to 5000 Ft
1500 to 3000 mm
5°C to 35°C
60% – 100%
Residual & Highly Acidic